A New Virus
According to the latest research, there is a spreading virus running rampant in our country. It is called “loneliness.” It seems that this virus causes more damage to the human body than smoking, drinking too much, or even heart disease. (Study by Dr. Brian Primack –featured on the Today Show April 23, 2018.)
Wow, I knew that loneliness was a sad state but had no idea that it was spreading and was so harmful. Another surprising finding is that the spread of social media actually increases the spread of the “disease.” It seems that viewing social media makes lonely people feel that other people “have a life,” but they do not.
Okay, we all know that all those “friends” we have on Facebook are not real friends. O, some of them might be, but we probably need to drop the nomenclature and call those folks who view our grandchildren’s pictures and accounts of our latest new adventure, “Facebook viewers.” Do we not water down the concept of what a friend really is by claiming we have 1,136 “friends?”
So what is the cure for the spreading loneliness? According to the news story I saw on TV, the beginning of the cure is to be creative and to reach out and risk being in some kind or a relationship that has some depth to it.
From my vast experience and knowledge (sigh) this is easier for some to do than others. With all my public life over 47 years of being a minister, most people in my congregations probably assumed that I was an extrovert for sure. Fact is that I am quite the introvert type but learned early that being so would not work. So I became a functioning extrovert, but it was not always easy.
Needing to “be there” for people helped bring me out. So, to all of you who might read this out there and who may be suffering quietly from the spreading loneliness virus, I say ‘do not suffer alone.’ Take a chance on reaching out and making a connection, especially by helping out someone else who you might suspect to be experiencing symptoms of this social malady.
I remember one of Don McLean’s songs that contained these lyrics:
Step off the platform and onto the train
Look out your window and into the rain
Watch all the buildings that pass as you ride
And count all the stories that go on inside
And then ask yourself if it must be this way
Should walls and doors and plaster ceilings
Separate us from each others’ feelings? (From “Three Flights Up”)
There are many kinds of “walls and plaster ceilings.” Not all of them are made of wood or other kinds of building material. Many of them are emotional and spiritual. Their foundations were laid over the years from fear and small failures.
So, if you are reading this and you are suffering from this “new found” but old virus I hope you will reach out and take a chance. Or if you are, for now, healthy and not in need of a cure, then look around for someone who seems to be symptomatic. We are all in this together or at least we should be.
The other virus that is spreading is rampant individualism whose major symptom is a spiritual rash of the soul that claims, “It’s all about me.” We can do better and if we do, we all will be healthier.
Dr. Jody Seymour
Jody Seymour retired after serving Davidson United Methodist Church as Senior Pastor for 13 years and being a pastor for forty-six years in the Western North Carolina Conference. He is the author of six books and resides just outside of Davidson with his wife, Betsy.